BY DAN METCALF
Clipper Film Correspondent
Rated PG-13 for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language.
Starring Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, James Gandolfini, Alan Arkin, Jay Mohr, Michael Herbig, Mason Cook, Luke Vanek, Zachary Gordon.
Written by Jonathan M. Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Chad Kultgen and Tyler Mitchell.
Directed by Don Scardino.
Conventional wisdom suggests there's no such thing as magic. Nevertheless, select people are able to make a decent living as magicians, mostly in Las Vegas. Their success is contingent upon creating illusions via sleight of hand, diversion and technological developments. Such individuals are the subject of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, starring Steve Carell as a magician in need of a little humility.
Carell plays Burt, a man who learned to love the art of performing magic while being picked on by bullies as a child. The young Burt meets with Anton (Steve Buscemi) and the two boys form a bond that takes them into adulthood as a famous Vegas casino headline act. Over the years, the two men who learned to love magic as children have become jaded celebrities with an act that has become redundant and stale. The duo has also managed to go through countless assistants (all named “Nicole”) until they end up with Jane (Olivia Wilde), a stagehand who has aspirations of becoming a magician herself.
As the Burt and Anton show begins to show signs of obvious decline, a “shock” magician (think: Chris Angel) street performer named Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) ascends to fame via the Internet. The combination of Steve “The Mind Rapist” Gray's act, their stale act and their failed friendship, Burt and Anton's act is canceled by casino owner Doug Munny (James Gandofini). Anton goes his separate way while Burt tries to find work in Vegas. Unable to succeed without Anton, Burt becomes destitute, ending up living in a motel and finding works as a magic performer in a retirement home for elderly Vegas acts. In the retirement home, Burt meets Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin), the man who inspired him to become a magician when Burt was a boy. Rance helps Burt realize what a creep he's been and helps him rediscover his passion for magic.
When the opportunity to headline Munny's newest casino comes along, Burt reunites with Anton and Jane to compete with Gray for another chance at stardom.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has its moments as a comedy, but it's a bad thing when the star of the film plays the least funny character. Carell's performance is uncomfortable and a little too creepy to pull off a magical farce. A close second in the “most uncomfortable” performance contest is Jim Carrey, whose antics seem out-of-place and as always, over-the-top. The only person whose performance doesn't evoke wincing is Arkin, who steals every scene he's in. Olivia Wilde is as lovely as ever, but seems miscast as a wide-eyed magician-in-waiting.
Some of the gags work, but most of the humor in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is sub-par, leaving audiences with a less-than-magical feeling.